The ‘Thinsulin Diet’ is the latest hot diet trend -- but does it work?

The Thinsulin Diet claims that avoiding “insulin-spiking” foods like potatoes, corn and carrots can help you lose weight.

We all know how important leafy greens are to our diet. They’re said to be good for digestion and may prevent certain types of cancer.

Leafy produce—including fruit and vegetables that come from plants with lush, green leaves—could also help you burn fat, according to two doctors.

Charles T. Nguyen, medical director of the Lorphen Medical Weight Loss Clinic,  and bariatric internist Tu Song Anh Nguyen, medical director of N.N. Medical, which provides medical management of weight loss with an emphasis on behavior modification, are co-authors, along with writer Mary Ann Marshall, of The Thinsulin Program: The Breakthrough Solution To Help You Lose Weight And Stay Thin. 

The two claim that greener the leaf, the more powerful it will be in helping to lower insulin levels. They say that high insulin levels cause your body to store fat, while low insulin levels cause it to burn fat.

Their top-pick veggies for weight loss include asparagus, bok choy, spinach, kale, arugula, rhubarb and watercress. The Nguyens maintain that fruits to stock up on, meanwhile, include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries and grapes.

The doctors also urge people to avoid “insulin-spiking” potatoes, corn, carrots and beets. Meanwhile, they say that meat is a good choice for keeping insulin levels low and helping to burn fat.

Two registered dietitians north of the border, however, don’t buy the authors’ claims.

Desiree Nielsen, author of Un-Junk Your Diet and co-chair of Dietitians of Canada’s Integrative and Functional Nutrition Network, says the Thinsulin program appears to be little more than a low-carb diet.

“A low carbohydrate diet can work for weight loss, but it isn’t a sustainable or healthful solution for the long term, and as soon as you quit, the weight will come back,” Nielsen says.

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Insulin isn’t responsible for weight gain, she says. Rather, it is responsible for ensuring that the energy from the food you consume is properly utilized by your cells.

“It is true that when blood sugars rise rapidly due to eating hyper-processed carbohydrate foods like pastries and soda, the pancreas will respond with a large spike of insulin to get blood sugars under control,” she says. ”So choosing whole foods with a lower glycemic index or load helps to regulate appetite by keeping blood sugars stable. 

“Care has to be taken with interpreting the glycemic index of foods, as we rarely eat foods in isolation,” she adds. “And [a combination of] protein, fat and fibre within the same meal augments the rise of blood sugar.”

Nielsen notes, too, that no single food will burn fat or promote weight loss.

“Creating meals with an adequate balance of colourful high-fibre veggies, moderate amounts of intact whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats will support a healthy weight,” she says.

Jessica Carter, contact dietitian at Dani Health and Nutrition Services, with offices in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., describes the Thinsulin program as “another fad diet that backhandedly demonizes carbohydrates.”

She points out that not all carbs are created equal. The “bad” ones are generally thought of as refined or processed carbs, such as white bread, donuts, cookies, as well as added sugars, like glucose-fructose or high-fructose corn syrup.

“When eaten solo, these kind of foods can spike blood sugars and crash them only a short time later—not so good for the body to keep your energy level and your brain functioning at an even keel,” Carter says.

The “good’ carbs, on the other hand, are considered to be those that have other stuff going on in them. Take beans, which contain carbs as well as protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Root vegetables like beets and carrots contain unrefined carbohydrate as well as vitamins A and C, potassium, fibre and other nutrients.

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“Whole grains—yes, even the demonized wheat–have fibre, selenium, manganese, iron, magnesium, niacin, in varying degrees from grain to grain,” Carter says. “Fruit have unrefined carbohydrates, including fibre. When we eat these whole, they have a laundry list of benefits much like vegetables.”

Carter says carb-containing foods do increase blood sugars, because we need them to fuel our body and mind processes. Blood-sugar peaks from refined sources of carbohydrates that result in insulin spikes may happen when we go without eating for a long time then eat in excess in one sitting or when we eat excess amounts of carbs, especially the refined kind.

What to do?

“Combine the carbohydrate your body needs with a protein and some healthy fats too to keep blood sugars within their optimal range,” she says, citing examples like tuna on toast, peanut butter and banana, nuts and fruit, avocado on whole grain crackers and Greek yogurt with fruit. 

“Yes we should eat our dark leafy greens,” she adds, “but not for the reasons stated by the Thinsulin team. The Atkins, South Beach Diet, Dr. Bernstein, and now the cleverly branded Thinsulin Program blame carbohydrates for weight gain and hence restricts them. 

“Do some people lose weight due to the state of ketosis that results? Sure. Is it effective in keeping weight off for good? Stats say no. The weight will likely come back, and then some.”

 What do you think about the Thinsulin diet? Let us know by tweeting @YahooStyleCA.